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17. Thymelaeaceae

瑞香科 rui xiang ke

Authors: Yinzheng Wang, Michael G. Gilbert, Brian F. Mathew, Christopher Brickell & Lorin I. Nevling

Wikstroemia dolichantha

Credit: Harvard University Herbaria

Shrubs or small trees, rarely herbs, evergreen or deciduous. Bark tough and fibrous. Leaves opposite or alternate, rarely some ternate, estipulate; blade simple, entire, pinnately veined, articulate at base. Plants mostly bisexual, sometimes dioecious. Inflorescences terminal or subterminal, less often axillary, sometimes on brachyblasts, sessile or pedunculate, basically racemose, sometimes capitate, spicate, umbelliform, or fascicled. Flowers usually actinomorphic, bisexual or unisexual (plants then mostly dioecious), bracteate (sometimes bracts forming an involucre) or ebracteate, sessile or pedicellate. Calyx tubular, campanulate, or infundibuliform, usually corollalike, 4- or 5(or 6)-merous, mostly caducous, sometimes circumscissile, or persistent; lobes imbricate. Petals absent or represented by 4-12 scales, inserted at or near throat of calyx tube (Aquilaria). Stamens 2 to many, usually as many as calyx lobes and opposite them or twice as many. Hypognous disk usually present at base of ovary, scalelike, annular or cup-shaped, sometimes absent. Ovary superior, 1- or 2-loculed, sessile or shortly stipitate; ovules solitary in each locule, pendulous, anatropous; style filiform, caducous, sometimes very short or obscure, terminal or eccentric; stigma capitate, globose, subglobose, subclavate, or pyramidal, sometimes papilose. Fruit mostly indehiscent, dry or fleshy, sometimes a loculicidal capsule (Aquilaria). Seeds with or without endosperm, embryo straight.

About 48 genera and ca. 650 species: widely distributed in both hemispheres; nine genera and 115 species (89 endemic) in China.

The phloem contains very strong fibers, which make the bark of many species very suitable for the manufacture of high-quality paper such as that used for bank notes. The stems are extremely supple and difficult to break and are used as a substitute for string. Most species are poisonous and some are important medicinally.

"Stellera formosana" (H. L. Li, Woody Fl. Taiwan, 619. 1963) and "Daphne formosana" (Halda, Genus Daphne, 83. 2001) were not validly published because they were based on "Chamaejasme formosana" (Hayata, Icon. Pl. Formosan. 6 [Gen. Ind. Fl. Formos.]: 64. 1917), which was itself not validly published because it lacked a description or diagnosis. The illustrations suggest that this plant is a species of Daphne. It was described as having a circumscissile calyx, which, if true, would exclude it from Daphne, and 4-merous flowers not enclosed in any bracts, which would place it in Diarthron. The specimens listed by Hayata proved to be Daphne arisanensis, but the material described and illustrated by Li and Halda is clearly not that species nor any of the other species recorded from Taiwan. This apparently distinctive endemic must remain effectively nameless until authentic material can be located to serve as a type and a validating description can be published in the appropriate genus.

Huang Shuchung & Zhang Zerong. 1999. Thymelaeaceae. In: Ku Tsuechih, ed., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 52(1): 287-400.

1 Calyx with petaloid appendages adnate to or inserted in throat; ovary 2-loculed; fruit a loculicidal capsule; trees.   1 Aquilaria
+ Calyx without petaloid appendages; ovary 1-loculed; fruit an indehiscent berry, drupe, or nut; shrubs, subshrubs, or herbs, sometimes a small tree   (2)
2 (1) Calyx tube articulate above ovary, circumscissile in fruit   (3)
+ Calyx tube not articulate, persistent or caducous, not circumscissile   (4)
3 (2) Flowers 5- or 6-merous; inflorescence with involucre, terminal, capitate, not elongating in fruit.   9 Stellera
+ Flowers 4-merous; inflorescence without involucre, terminal, often elongating in fruit, or axillary.   8 Diarthron
4 (2) Annual herbs, mainly branched well above base, roots not thickened; hypogynous disk very reduced or absent; inflorescence terminal, lax, elongated, spikelike; calyx tube 2-4 mm.   7 Thymelaea
+ Perennials, if herbaceous or suffrutescent then with stems rarely branched above base and roots often thickened; hypogynous disk present; inflorescence a compact raceme, spike, or head, sometimes grouped into panicles, or axillary fascicles subtended by normal leaves; calyx tube (2-)5-20 mm   (5)
5 (4) Style long, stigma narrowly terete, ± clavate.   6 Edgeworthia
+ Style very short or obscure, stigma capitate   (6)
6 (5) Inflorescence sessile, or if pedunculate, flower buds not enclosed within an involucre; calyx lobes spreading at anthesis   (7)
+ Inflorescences long pedunculate, flower buds enclosed in conspicuous calyxlike involucre; calyx lobes erect at anthesis   (8)
7 (6) Hypogynal disk of distinct scales, inflorescences racemose, paniculate, or spicate, less often capitate; leaves opposite or alternate.   2 Wikstroemia
+ Hypogynal disk annular and oblique or cup-shaped, margins entire or lobed to parted or developed on one side, inflorescences capitate or fascicled, rarely spicate or racemose; leaves usually alternate, rarely opposite.   3 Daphne
8 (6) Inflorescence an axillary 5-10-flowered head, calyx white within.   4 Eriosolena
+ Inflorescence a panicle of many terminal and subterminal (3 or)4(-7)-flowered heads, calyx red within.   5 Rhamnoneuron

Lower Taxa


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